THE LIBERTY SHIP – IVYBANK
This is an interesting first hand account of life as an Apprentice in the 1950’s. Told by Captain Blowers who served his time with Bank Line. The intro only is shown here. (For the full story please click on the orange download button at the end)
A Mystery Voyage with the Bank Line:
Having spent three years at the London Nautical School and after taking the General Certificate of Education in six subjects, including Navigation and Seamanship, the next step was to go to sea. It was first necessary to pass a full medical examination and eyesight test. To avoid oil tankers and experience worldwide trading, I signed indentures in 1955 at the age of 16 with Andrew Weir’s Bank Line and joined, as the junior of three apprentices, a brand-new ship M.V. Foylebankat Harland & Wolf’s shipyard in Belfast for a five-month trip to U.S. Gulf ports, Australia, South Sea Islands and home. When we were in Houston, Texas, we were berthed next to an old Bank Line Liberty ship (generally referred to as Sam boats) the Ivybank, loading a similar assortment of cargo for Australia. We exchanged visits and their junior apprentice went back along the quay crying after seeing our new and much nicer accommodation and facilities. I wrote to my parents that “the ship (Ivybank) was the worst I had ever seen. It was absolutely filthy and the quarters were just shocking. I hope I never see her again in my lifetime.”
So, you can imagine my thoughts, when after three weeks leave over the New Year period 1955/56, I received orders to take the train to Hull and join the S.S. Ivybank,that had followed us back from Australia with a bulk cargo of ore of some kind. On the train I met two of the other apprentices joining, the 18-year-old senior apprentice, Terry, was an old London Nautical School boy, as also was the first trip junior apprentice, Tony, an old form-mate who had stayed on at school for an extra 6 months. The second apprentice, John from Dover, joined later and was a year senior to me. The overnight (non-sleeper) train arrived in Hull at about 5am and we had to kick our heels in the cold until 7am when the nearby seamen’s club opened so that we could get a hot drink and some breakfast As soon as they opened for the day we made the required visit to the company’s agent in the fabulously named “Land of Green Ginger” where we were given the location of our ship and found her high out of the water with a perilously steep gangway to lug up all our gear. The joining date was 18th January 1956.